Protest against UK’s trade deal with Australia to be held in Powys
A protest against the terms in the UK’s upcoming trade deal with Australia will be held outside a Tory MPs office.
The protest is being held outside Montomeryshire MP Craig Williams’ office in Welshpool at 11am on Monday.
Supporters said it was being held amid fears for the impact that the trade deal will have on local agriculture, which is a major part of Montgomeryshire’s economy – Welshpool’s livestock market is the largest one-day sheep market in Europe.
The UK’s trade deal with Australia has been negotiated in the days preceding – and following – the G7 summit in Cornwall, where Boris Johnson met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison alongside delegates from other nations.
The UK Government has since announced that the trade deal has been agreed ‘in broad terms’. It has promised to protect British farmers in its negotiations with the Australian Government, who UK farmers fear are keen to expand their market for their red meat exports.
However, there has been no discussions with the Welsh Government regarding the deal.
Critics of the deal say that animal products imported from Australia will not have to meet the UK’s high environmental and welfare standards, undercutting farmers in the UK, creating a ‘race to the bottom’, or putting farmers out of business completely.
An advert for the Welshpool protest can be seen circulating on Facebook, including on the pages of Plaid Cymru Montgomeryshire and Extinction Rebellion Newtown and Welshpool, among others.
Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams, who sits on the International Trade Select Committee, has tweeted that he is looking forward to scrutinising “our first new full FTA with Australia and agreed over a dinner of Welsh lamb.”
He has congratulated Liz Truss said that he will will “continue to engage with the farming unions once we have the full detail from the agreement.”
I look forward to scrutinising our first new full FTA with 🇦🇺. On the face of it great news – V pleased we secured a 15 year cap on tariff free imports and further safeguards for our farmers.
Top job @trussliz 🇬🇧🇦🇺 and agreed over a dinner of #WelshLamb 👍🏻 https://t.co/AdFfzx55S4
— Craig Williams (@craig4monty) June 15, 2021
However, Plaid Cymru Powys county councillor Elwyn Vaughan said: “Our MP Craig Williams is living in fantasy world if he believes the Australian trade deal will be good for Welsh farmers. This is a deal to benefit big business not the hill farmers of Mid Wales.
“That will have a devastating effect and in particular on those areas where the farming sector is an integral part of the vitality of the Welsh language and culture.
“We therefore need new impetus and vision which puts the sustainability of our communities, rural traditions, language and culture as an integral part of the wider sustainability of our environment. Otherwise we’ll merely end up with expensive holiday homes, unaffordable housing and depopulation dominating our rural communities.”
Pam and David Williams, retired organic livestock farmers and Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) members said: “Now that we are starting to see the impacts of the climate and ecological emergency on agriculture, we need to acknowledge what the Stern report of 2006 pointed out, which was “the need to recognise the potential impacts of climate change on water resources, food production, health, and the environment” so we believe that we must concentrate on our food security.
“Doing deals with Australia will not help to produce food at home, here in Wales. Our access to water and food should be at the forefront of any food security strategy. We have seen the impacts of the wildfires in Australia, which are unlikely to reduce and we suggest that the government thinks that such a deal will allow the UK to walk away from the carbon footprint of food destined for the UK consumer but surely we must be honest and count the carbon footprint of all we consume whether imported or home-produced.
“Our animal welfare and meat production standards prohibit the use of growth promoters but 40% of beef produced in Australia involves the use of hormones, a practice that is currently not allowed in the UK. Antibiotic use is much greater in Australian livestock, a practice we know that we need to keep as low as possible to reduce antibiotic resistance in consumers.
“There’s also the ethical issue of whether we should even be doing a deal with a prime minister who rejects the idea that coal should be kept in the ground!”
David France, 24, carer and climate activist said: “I am appalled by what Craig Williams and the UK Government are doing. You just can’t put it into words. The idea of shipping low quality, ecologically destructive meat half way round the world – while putting local farmers out of business – is a farce.
“Promises to protect our farmers are being broken. Promises to respond to climate and ecological collapse are being broken.
“Our so-called representatives are only representing the interests of corporations and the elite. Our democracy is broken. We need Citizens’ Assemblies now, to decide on a just future.”